Mon, 20 Nov 2000

Sujudi hopes no serious HMFD outbreak in Indonesia

JAKARTA (JP): Minister of Health Achmad Sujudi asserted on Saturday that most Indonesian children have a strong resistance to infectious diseases thanks to various cultural and ecological factors.

"Based on this fact I strongly hope that there will be no outbreak of infectious diseases such as HMFD (Hand Foot and Mouth Disease) which is caused by Enterovirus," Sujudi told The Jakarta Post on the sidelines of the Healthy Indonesia 2010 ceremony at Pondok Indah Mall here.

The physical resistance of Indonesians to disease was usually high due to their ability to adjust to natural conditions, he said.

"Most children living in remote areas usually recover from illness naturally and they don't fall sick easily ," Sujudi said.

Cases of HMFD have been recorded in the country in the past couple of months after at least 30 children had been treated for the disease in South Jakarta.

"The ministry also recorded on October 27 this year five cases of HMFD found in Batam, Riau province."

"In Jakarta, cases of the illness first appeared in Bogor, Bekasi and Depok. All related agencies have been notified to intensify surveillance and prevention," Sujudi said.

The minister also reiterated that HMFD had nothing to do with foot and mouth diseases found in cattle. "HMFD cannot be transmitted by animals."

"People always think that it comes from cows. That's wrong."

"Enterovirus, the virus that causes the illness is entirely different. It usually dies in dry conditions or in direct exposure to sunlight after a few hours. If people wash their clothes with bleach, the virus will die in a matter of minutes," the minister later stated in written data made available to the Post.

Its incubation period was between three to five days and those who were infected by the virus may be cured in between seven and 10 days, he said.

Enterovirus enters the body and (usually) stays in the throat, and from there it begins to create cell damage, such as mouth ulcers or rashes on the hands or feet. High fever follows.

"The virus can be fatal if there is are complications such as encephalitis (if the virus strikes the brain) or myocarditis (if it attacks the heart). But this happens in very rare cases," he said.

The outbreak of HMFD illness hit neighboring countries of Singapore and Malaysia over the past few months. In Singapore at least 1,150 children under five were recorded as having contracted the illness, four of whom died.

Sujudi further said that there were many types of strains of diseases that people must be alert to.

"The Enterovirus-71 which hit Singapore has other strains and classifications such as poliovirus, Coxsackie A Virus and Coxsackie B Virus," he said.

According to the ministry, there were at least 5,999 Enterovirus 71 cases in an outbreak in Malaysia, killing 31 people in 1997. (edt)